515 Tasting Notes
Tea party @ Rabs’ house! (Virtually speaking…)
It’s really pretty late for me to be having caffeine but tomorrow being a holiday and all I’m throwing caution to the wind. I had a cup of this earlier, but then I went for a run, ate dinner, put kids to bed, etc. before writing a note and I thought I’d better refresh my recollection. :-)
I’ve had a couple of really outstanding vanilla flavored black teas, some that were fine, and some that were pretty awful. This one is definitely at the high end of the spectrum, though I don’t think it passes Mariage Freres Black Orchid or Samovar Vanilla Dian Hong.
I bought a little tin of it from SerendipiTea, and it’s adorable. It’s the shape and just about the size of a chewing tobacco tin (not that I have one handy to compare it to, it just reminds me of that), but probably has a smaller circumference. The dry leaves have a vanilla smell along ice cream lines. Creamy rather than beany. There’s a dusky tea smell underneath.
The tea smells creamy rather than beany, too. Very pleasing aroma. Surprisingly, the taste isn’t as ice creamy as I would have thought. It’s smooth, but it has a sort of sneaky intensity to the vanilla flavor. You don’t realize it’s as vanilla-y as it is until you sit with it for a bit. The vanilla flavor really comes out in the aftertaste if you breathe in through your mouth after sipping.
On the problem of cocoa: yeah, I get some, more in the taste than in the aroma. I find that there’s a very fine line between chocolate and vanilla flavoring sometimes, particularly if they are leaning toward less sweet. I generally think of them as opposites, having been trained that way from an early age (do you want chocolate ice cream? or vanilla? black? or white?) but when you think about it, they’re both from seeds. More specifically from beany, poddy, plant things. So why shouldn’t there be some similarity? In any case, the more intense the vanilla, the more it seems to me to have chocolate overtones. With chocolate, it’s a little more difficult to make a generalization, but I have found vanilla notes in chocolate on a number of occasions.
I like this one. Really. So what to do here?
I’m going to solve the rating question by bumping up Samovar and Mariage Freres slightly, to give what I think is an appropriate space between them and this on the rating scale, which will enable me to give this a slightly higher rating than I would have otherwise.
Finished up the last bags of this this evening. It’s a good one, not quite up there with the Chinese Breakfast, and not as good as the loose leaf genmaichas I’ve been trying lately, but for a bagged green tea it is pretty darn good. I’ve been drinking it a lot today and it’s a pretty consistent mild, savory taste from cup to cup. It’s almost as though there’s a little salt in there with the toasty rice, though I doubt it as otherwise it would make me thirsty and it doesn’t.
I’d buy this again if I found myself needing a bagged green tea and it was available.
So my older son learned to ride a bike without training wheels today, on his very first try. I remember it taking me weeks. Maybe the human species has evolved? In any case, I was amazed. Now if he can just learn to start himself off, we’ll be cooking with gas.
To celebrate, we took the kids to Jamba Juice, where I noticed for the first time that there were Mighty Leaf teas available. And I saw this. I believed it to be Mighty Leaf from the way the menu was set up, but after reading further on the web site, I am now fairly sure it is a Jamba Juice brand.
In any case, it was pretty tasty. A good amount of chocolate, and spices strong enough to show through the chocolate. The bike rider asked to smell it and announced it smelled like gingerbread cookies.
Pretty much right on target.
This is another tea from the Dammann Freres group tea ordering project Doulton put together. I started laughing when I read the ingredients. This is indeed the fourth tea from Dammann Freres I’ve tried with fig as an ingredient. Fig. 4!
Amazingly, the dry leaves smell like peach even though there is no peach flavored anything identified as an ingredient. I can get fig as well. I had to look up what pitanga is, and if it smells like cherry, I can find that as well. Ironically, what I’m not getting is a whole lot of citrus, which, one would think, would be the main event since there is lemon, bergamot and orange in this. It’s definitely in there, but it isn’t in-your-face.
The aroma of the tea also reminds me, inexplicably, of peach. Through some weird synergy of the ingredients, that’s what I smell. I can pick out the individual fragrances as well, even the rose.
The word that came to me when I was thinking of how to describe the taste is “French” which I realize isn’t very helpful. It’s a complex flavor; like its name, a well-blended perfume that doesn’t have one particular note sing out, but if you’re willing to spend the time putting your mind to each flavor you can find it there and, more interestingly, find how it interacts with the others. That’s what I think of when I think of French perfume.
It’s a tea I think would taste particularly fine on a fall day when the air is just starting to get a crispness in it. It’s not heavy, but it has a depth to it that may feel too heavy for spring and summer consumption.
This is the fourth and last of the teas in the British Blend sampler. I have to say I really like the little tins Upton uses for its sampler sets. They’re very cute.
The darjeeling owns the smell of the dry leaves here, along with a little smokiness that must be from the Keemun. Fruity and smoky. Yum. The Ceylon seems to be coming out more in the steeped tea’s aroma. I am getting that sort of berry undercurrent I’ve found in other Ceylons.
The tea is flavorful and medium bodied bordering on full with a mouthfeel that is thicker than water but not thick enough to feel like it’s coating your throat. I didn’t try it with additives yet. It doesn’t really need it, at 3 minutes of steeping. There’s nothing harsh or bitter about it. It has some astringency.
It’s deceptively simple tasting. It seems to me sort of a Rorschach inkblot of black teas. If you want to find a chocolate note in here, I think you can. Vanilla, probably. Fruit? Definitely. Nut, I think so. Smoke? At tad. Wood? Some. Earth, probably. Name some other things you typically find in tea and if you let your mind wander during the tasting you can probably convince yourself it’s there. At least until you’re more highly caffeinated than I am this morning, as this is my first caffeine of the day.
My 300th tasting note? Really? Man, they accumulate fast. Lol.
Clue No. 4 [This would have been the last clue, if Rabs hadn’t figured out my mystery with only three! Awesome!]
Surprised I’m the first to write a note on this as it appears to be the flagship tea of The O Dor.
As a fan of Harney & Sons Florence, I was particularly curious about this tea as it’s also a chocolate and hazelnut flavored black.
The leaves smell different. The Wolf smells more like what I’d expected of Florence and been pleasantly surprised not to find: Frangelico and chocolate. Florence has a true nut smell, rather than a liqueur. But the liqueur of the Wolf is marvelous smelling in its own way. There are large nut fragments visible in the tea.
Steeped, the tea produces a truer nut smell with a chocolate undercurrent.
It’s a different taste than Florence. Though I’m not doing a side by side tasting, from memory I’d say it’s subtler, with less pronounced chocolate. That is both a minus and a plus, as it is naturally sweeter prior to milk and/or sweetening additives than Florence is and makes a really delicious drink plain — but the trade off is that it is less chocolatey overall.
I’m still liking Florence in the top spot, but this is a strong contender and one I think can coexist nicely for those times a straight up chocolate/hazelnut is calling.
Clue No. 3 “Full Moon” to those of you who are Francophobes.
If the title of this note means nothing to you, and you’re interested in learning about my little game, please read my tasting note at:
for an explanation of the game, and my note at
for the second clue.
Now, on to the tea!
I am coming to realize that I have a weak spot, a very big weak spot indeed, for cornflowers in tea. They’re just so blue and lovely, in among the leaves. They go well with every color, but for some reason I find them particularly fetching in black tea. This has them, as well as some brown textures which I’m guessing are almond pieces and maybe some vanilla bean pieces as well. An aesthetically pleasing dry mix. It smells strongly of sweet almonds, leaning toward Amaretto rather than the nuts themselves. There’s another strong sweet smell as well, which I can’t really identify as vanilla because of the strength of the almond fragrance, but which, it stands to reason, is what I’m smelling.
It brews to a slightly cloudy chestnut color that smells much nuttier than liqueur-like. Almonds and vanilla. Yeah, I get that. Also get something that reminds me very vaguely of cinnamon and maybe even anise.
The taste is quite nice. I haven’t had a lot of almond teas so I don’t have a lot to compare this to, and the other one that comes to mind also had chocolate in it which is a definite thumb on the scale. But I’m enjoying it, and I am finding myself thinking of what it would taste like with just a tad of milk, or sweetened up just a bit. Or maybe even with some salt to bring out the nut, as LiberTEAS has suggested with other teas in the past. Almond is the predominant flavor here, and it is pretty true to the nut itself. The aftertaste is amazingly like what you get after having cracked open an almond and chewed its inner meat into oblivion. The tea supports this well, but is definitely second violin.
I’m loving Mariage Freres for the most part. They have the perfume of the dry leaves down like no one else for flavored blacks. Mariage me, freres!
Clue No. 2
(See my tasting note for this tea:
for an explanation of the game.)
This is my first Mariage Freres green tea and I’m excited. In the can, it looks like sencha and it smells really dreamy. I can smell the greenness, but also a really delicious fruity aroma that is strong but at the same time (to me anyway) avoids the medicinal.
The tea steeps rather more yellow than I’d expected if this is in fact sencha. It smells lovely. I’m not sure what is in here, exactly, but to me it smells like cherries, raspberries, strawberries and maybe some apple. On the spice front I’m not so sure, though I could be persuaded there is a hint of vanilla in here.
I have had so many disappointing flavored greens, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of taste on this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. First, the tea is absolutely present in the taste, and it isn’t bitter in the least. It’s a somewhat buttery, somewhat vegetal, somewhat herbaceous taste. And the fruit stands up to it without taking it over entirely. It is very well balanced compared to other flavored greens I’ve had.
Maybe I’m just really excited to find a flavored green besides the Samovar Moorish Mint that I’d like to drink again, but I have to give this one a fairly high rating for being in such a (so far, anyway) limited club.
Clue No. 1
Ever since Geek Pride Day came and went, I have been feeling guilty for not doing it justice. I just couldn’t get it together to do anything prior to or on the actual day. I was too busy being on vacation. But Rabs and Ewa inspired me, and so I’m going to take the position that every day ought to be Geek Pride Day and therefore, this little homage isn’t late at all.
It’s a little mystery game. Here’s how it will work.
This is the first tasting note in a series of four. The names of the teas tasted, taken together, provide clues that are intended to lead to the answer. The correct answer is something likely to be known to geeks of a particular stripe and of a particular era, i.e., it’s a little dated, but then so am I.
There is no prize. It’s just for fun and bragging rights if you guess correctly. If no one guesses the answer after the fourth note, I’ll either try to come up with additional tea names for clues, or will at that point provide further hints. Feel free to guess at any time — you don’t need to wait for subsequent notes. To start you off, in addition to the name of this tea, I will tell you that the fact that this is structured as a mystery game is no accident.
Now, for the first tea (in case you’re actually here to find out what German Breakfast is like).
In the sample packet, it smells delicious — very aromatic black teas in this. It’s roasty and earthy and has a hint of sweetness. The leaves are small and I can see some tips in there.
The aroma of the tea is sweet and malty. It smells smooth. Very inviting. It’s a medium/dark black tea colored liquor. Reddish more than orange.
Yum. It’s billed as T&H’s strongest breakfast blend, but at 3 minutes of steeping it’s very tasty without any additives. I don’t feel I’m being slapped around. More like forcefully coaxed into wakefulness. It has an interesting mouthfeel similar to what I found in the Yunan from LeafSpa. It’s thick in a similar way, but not quite as thick as the Yunan.
There’s a bright, almost bubbly note to it from the darjeeling that gives it the illusion of being less full bodied than I think it is. I’m starting to think of the word “perky” when I taste darjeeling. But the taste is mellower and without the distinctive darjeeling flavor that can tend toward the sharp. This is rounder and softer. I wouldn’t call it sweet, but it tends that way, and tends even more that way in the aftertaste. A malty, grainy sweetness.
This will get into at least a semi-final breakfast blend round. I could see it going all the way.
The unintended consequence of opening sample no. 3 from the Upton British Blend sampler today is that I now have Gerry Rafferty doing the backstroke through my brain repeatedly. At least the saxophone is awesome.
Tippy leaves ranging from dark, almost black to light, almost tan, though mostly in the chocolate brown range. Dry, it smells smoky. I’m getting salted, charbroiled meat. Nice.
The aroma of the steeped tea is not very smoky at all. It’s fruity. Kind of a stonefruit mixed with grape smell. Very nice. The liquor is dark, close to a brandy color, but redder.
If you like smoky, this is really delicious. And if you only sort of like smoky, you should give this a try because it’s a pretty mild, smooth intro to smoky tasting teas. To be clear, I like smoky, I like piney. I like drinking campfires. The part I can live without is feeling like there’s smoke coating my nose hairs so that I continue to breathe it in long after the tea is gone, but I’m willing to do that to enjoy smoky tea.
Baker Street isn’t harsh or tarry, and it doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to be smelling smoke for three days after drinking it. The darjeeling contributes a brightness that keeps the blend from tasting like tree resin, and there’s a fair amount of the signature darjeeling flavor in the finish. There’s a hint of pine, but it’s mild. The smoke itself isn’t even the most obvious taste. The most obvious taste to me is a fruity woodiness.
I’m liking this one a lot. It’s got ooomph, but it doesn’t hit like a ton of bricks. Despite its name, I think it would make a really good start to the morning.